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The Late Bloomer

The Rediff Team | August 17, 2004 23:27 IST

For Indians, there can be no doubt who is Tuesday's Olympian. Major Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore it is!

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore The ace Indian shooter claimed the silver medal in the men's double-trap shooting at the 28th Games in Athens to give the country its first-ever individual silver medal in Olympic history.

Sheikh Ahmed Al-Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates took the gold medal, scoring 144 in the qualifying round and 45 out of 50 in the final round. China's Wang Zheng won the bronze, scoring 178 (41/50).

Rathore had a superb round in the final after having qualified only in the fifth place. He showed no sign of nerves as he drew level with the Wang Zheng and then eventually overtook him after a thrilling display of accurate shooting.

The 34-year-old, who took up competitive shooting only at the age of 28, is your classical late bloomer.

But a career in the army -- he fought in the Kargil battle -- prepared him for life and also nurtured a love for guns and sharp-shooting.

Rathore, who currently has a world ranking of three in the double trap event, served as a Grenadiers' officer between 1994 to 1996 in the volatile Baramulla and Kupwara regions of Kashmir.  But despite being away from the shooting ranges his talent was noticed.

After returning from Kargil he decided to take a leave of absence from the army to pursue his dream. Success came quickly. He won the gold at the World Cup in Sydney last year, beating world record holder Daniele Di Spigna of Italy.

He prepared for the Olympics under the tutelage of Atlanta Olympic gold medallist Russell Mark of Australia.

His silver was not unexpected, but to a nation starved of Olympic success, it is certainly huge. That silver medal will inspire a host of youngsters to take up the sport.

Let's give the Major three cheers for his magnificent feat.

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